Hafen Open Air

I recently had the good fortune to come across the Hafen Open Air Austrian Music Festival, a two-day event bringing together talented musicians from both Austria and Germany. I hesitate to say that the festival is located in Vienna. Instead, I’ll say that it is located on the extreme outskirts of the city (read: when asked where he should take us at the end of the night, we told the cab driver, “Vienna, please,” and off we went). Friday night’s festivities featured Vienna’s own Michael Seida, a musician, I was told, who is also known as “the Austrian Bruce Springsteen.” I was curious about this artist in particular – what makes him the Austrian Bruce Springsteen? What makes anyone an Austrian Bruce Springsteen? and is that a compliment because surely each musician is striving for his/her own original sound and storytelling? It turns out that this prolific and charismatic performer has a cache of Bruce Springsteen songs that he has lovingly TRANSLATED INTO GERMAN and in turn, made his very own. At the festival we were treated to a few covers – Bruce Springsteen of course, The Rolling Stones – but what really blew my mind was his cover of the American folk classic, This Land Is Your Land (originally written by Woodie Guthrie in 1940). I haven’t heard this song since my elementary school days when I held hands with my classmates on stage, shyly singing the first verse over and over again to the mad applause of our beaming parents. Michael Seida’s German version of the tune was both delightful and hilarious, familiar and startling – while I knew the song and couldn’t stop smiling at the completely unprecedented memories it called forth, I wasn’t prepared to sing it in German. I did what I was programmed to do and sang that first verse for all it was worth and while Michael Seida moved on to second, third, and fourth verses (there is more than one?!), I sang my first grade heart out. I couldn’t help but wonder about the decision-making process behind uncovering such a song, translating it, and then performing it before largely European audiences – it really felt like the height of globalization to me, two worlds unexpectedly meeting in a beautiful and utterly bizarre artistic space. Unfortunately, this year’s festival is over but Michael Seida is not to be missed – check out his forthcoming concerts in Vienna and beyond for an evening of energy, creativity, and damn fine live music.

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